The article surveys a giant infrastructural construction project in Poland: the A2 motorway, connecting Poznan´ and Warsaw with the Polish-German border. It was the first private motorway in Poland, and the biggest European infrastructural project, and was realized in a public-private partnership system. The last section of A2 was opened on 1 December 2011, which can be seen as a key moment in Polish socioeconomic transformation. I examine it on two levels: (1) a discourse between government and private investors in which the motorway was the medium of economic and social development and infrastructural “the end” modernization of Poland; (2) practices and opinions of local communities, living along the new motorway. On the first level, the construction of A2 was seen as an impetus for the economic and social development of the regions where the motorway was built. But on the second level, I observe almost universal disappointment and a deep crisis experienced by local economies.
The Motorway as a Space of Neoliberalism
The agricultural situation in Poland has been changing significantly during the last decades. In 1989, the predictability of the communist centrally planned economy was replaced by the unexpectedness and "invisible hand" of the free market economy. The socialist welfare state has been replaced by new modes of support, introduced by European Union (EU). On the basis of fieldwork conducted between 2005 and 2008 in farming communities in eastern Poland, I focus on decision making among small-scale farmers. This article addresses decision-making processes and their sociocultural context, including the reasons for and circumstances behind decisions, and also elements of decision-making processes that tend to hinder the introduction of EU agricultural policy. In the course of adapting to new and changing realities, farmers creatively use customary ways of thinking and acting in the various decisions they have to make while running the farm. Changes of the very mechanisms of decision-making processes seem to be rather slow, however.
This article analyzes the reorganization of public memory space in postsocialist Poland and how the state and municipal councils use it to legitimate themselves. Drawing on research conducted in Gdańsk, the birthplace of the social movement (Solidarność) that questioned the legitimacy of the socialist state in the 1980s, it examines the proposed redevelopment of the shipyard where the movement was formed. While the redevelopment sets out to create a public memory space, it is rife with contradictions, for it involves demolishing many buildings associated with the movement. What legitimated the municipal council’s authority over its memorial landscapes was not so much its rediscovery of complex local histories as it was its ability to define the local past in “material” terms.
This article examines memories of socialism among different generations in Nowa Huta, Poland. Initially built as an industrial “model socialist town“, since 1989 Nowa Huta experienced economic decline and marginalization. Its socialist legacy is now being reinterpreted in ways that reflect changed political, economic, and social conditions. This article describes contemporary public representations of the town's history and considers how they resonate with the experiences and understandings of different generations of residents, from the town's builders to the youngest generation, who have no firsthand memories of the socialist period. It demonstrates how generational categories are both reflected and constructed through different accounts of the past, while also revealing overlaps between them. Throughout, specific attention is paid to the relationship between narratives of the past, present, and future, and present-day political and economic realities.
This article describes why the Polish government has pushed for an invocation to Christian traditions in the European Union Constitution. It is argued that this is a rather 'unfortunate' outcome of the political alliance between the Catholic Church and the Polish left, especially between President Aleksander Kwaśniewski and the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). This alliance allowed the SLD to legitimize their rule in the post-socialist Poland, and it was a result of a political competition between them and the post-Solidarność elites. As a result, John Paul II became the central integrative metaphor for the Polish society at large, which brought back in the marginalized as well as allowed the transition establishment to win the EU accession referendum in 2003. The article (which was written when Leszek Miller was still Prime Minister) demonstrates how this alliance crystallized and presents various elements of the cult of the Pope in Poland that followed. Finally, it argues that the worship of the Pope is not an example of nationalism, but of populism, understood not as a peripheral but as a central political force, and advocates for more research on the 'politics of emotions' at work in the centers and not in peripheries.
Embodied Claims between the Nation and Europe
In 2016 a legislative proposal introducing an abortion ban resulted in female mass mobilisations. The protests went along with frequent claims of Polish as well as European belonging. Next to this, creative appropriations of patriotic symbols related to national movements, fights and uprisings for independence and their transformation into a sign of female bodily sovereignty could be observed all over the country. The appearance of bodies needs to be looked at in relation to the concrete political context and conditions in which bodies materialise (Butler 2015). Bodies are in this sense always relational, but they also depend. The article argues that the constitution of ‘European bodies’ can serve to empower people exposed to and oppressed by nationalist biopolitics. In such cases a ‘European body’ might be constituted in distinction to the nation/nationalism and its claim of ownership on female bodies (the ‘national body’) and by performing multiple belongings extending national belonging.
The EU as an Instrument for Personal and National Advancement
The paper explores ways in which individuals make use of the opportunities and resources provided by the European Union (EU), and how such instrumentalities can make the concept of Europe more salient for citizens. This is important to European Union studies generally because careful observation and analysis of everyday engagements can help to reveal the basis upon which the EU gains legitimacy, or, alternatively, the grounds for resistance to further integration. Through an examination of Poles' experiences of mobility, and their reflections about crossing national borders to work and travel, the paper shows that instrumentality is not just motivated by economic interests, but also by the desire to advance culturally, socially and symbolically within a global imaginary of hierarchically ranked nations. As such, support for European integration tends to weaken in situations where ongoing inequalities and exclusions lead to perceptions of social demotion. Further, instrumentalities can deepen meaningful engagement with the EU in ways that also reassert national loyalties.
The Rękawka Fair in Cracow
The article aims to show how ethnographic data concerning religious rites, both Catholic and pagan, circulate in culture and thus become a kind of historical source for re-enacting other, invented religious rites. In the example of the Rękawka fair in Cracow, it is demonstrated how religious content present in nineteenth-century ethnographic descriptions, originally ascribed to pre-Christian paganism but incorporated into a Catholic fair, was separated from it and used in recreating and performing a neopagan rite. Investigating an Early Middle Ages re-enactment movement, the author focuses on the process of transforming ethnographic data into historical ones. Analysing the problem of authenticity of such sources, she points out the particularities of achieving authenticity in a re-enactment movement: to some, the contemporary Rękawka fair remains only a kind of historical re-enactment, while according to others it is a true neopagan rite.
At a time when European cities redefine themselves through 'culture' in an attempt to attract tourists, investors and potential residents, policymakers have to negotiate different notions of 'local culture' defined by state governments on the one hand and by the EU on the other. Drawing upon research conducted in the Polish city of Gdańsk in the context of the redevelopment of its urban landscape, the article illustrates how 'local culture' is redefined as 'culture of freedom' by municipal and state institutions in order to establish a relationship of historical continuity between the time when Gdańsk was a thriving multicultural city and the post-socialist present. The article puts forward the argument that while the reformulation of local culture as 'culture of freedom' involves reconciling notions of national identity with new norms of local, regional and European integration, it does not necessarily entail the supersession of nationalism.
A Forgotten Moment in Postwar History
Robert L. Cohn
Long overshadowed by the regnant Jewish memory of postwar Poland as a vast graveyard from which anyone who could would flee, the little-told story of the revival of Jewish life in the 'Recovered Territories' of western Poland reveals what its backers saw as an alternative to Israel in Palestine for Polish Jewish survivors. Abetted by both Zionist and American narratives, that dominant memory has suppressed a tale of courage and determination among the most downtrodden of people to recreate a Jewish life on Polish soil. It is a tale of people who believed that Jews not only had the right to claim citizenship in the new Poland but also could fulfill there their Jewish national aspirations. Led by the industrious Jacob Egit, the Jewish survivors in Lower Silesia in the earliest postwar years developed industries and cultural institutions that could have sustained a renewed Jewish community. That their efforts were cut short by the forces of antisemitism and Communism does not vitiate their remarkable though short-lived achievement.